"The other day i was walking down a crowded street here in San Francisco, and i saw a women in a faux Ramones style motorcycle jacket-it was shorter and boxier, more blue than black, and I immediately thought whoa thats some bullshit, fucking w a classic, not riding a motorcycle, def not a punk in any way, just a poseur. Then I look at myself in a store window: straight legged Japanese Repro jeans from the sixties, vintage warehouse tee shirt, black logger boots, old fashioned mascot glasses. And i thought what a judgmental bullshitter. Now i know what gatekeeping is... I'm wondering about how all of you feel about your clothing choices... Like, again, i've written this before, ideas about authenticity, costuming, gate keeping. I guess i only gate keep in my mind-i'm a very judgmental person, trying to get over it-i would never say anything about anyones clothes but i might think it..."
Dressing up is cool. How to enjoy it is up to you, but I find the traditional channels of entry to be incredibly constricting. Clothing is political, always has been since its inception. And because of that, sticking your head into /r/mfa or styleforum is a bit like wearing sandpaper undergarments. There's two persistent dimensions that grate against your genitals in choosing something as simple as what to wear: class and masculinity. And especially so if you're American. It's not beaten over your head, but there's a definite stench that emanate from these communities outside of fundamentals like color theory or silouettes.
Clothing's significance as a societal hackle cuts across civilations throughout history. Its cultural use transcendental from exposure or decency, often signified either meritocracy or god-given stratification/validity. From regalia reserved for chiefs to starched ruffles and codpieces, articles of clothing were often firmly segmented by societal status. A normal European peasant could only afford new linen farmwear twice a year and specific items of clothing were restricted by class and enforced by law. The castle corner shitting aristocrats that would establish the tie, suit, and dress shoe as Western European dress so analgous to formal wear today still had to play by the royalty's rules. Trends in fashion used to precipitate from the top, manifesting down as attempts at feigning wealth if not prohibited legally from doing so entirely.
The victorious conclusion to WWII reinvigorated domestic industry to a degree where American preoccupations of class gave way to cheap clothing.
Peacocking gave way to a democratized and increasingly hegemonic style of dress. Embracing classless dress as its own American uniform, deviating from the spheres of "casual" is seen as pretentious. This odd flavor of collectivism in the rational egoism republic has definitedly stifled my enjoyment in clothing.
Similarly, reading thread after thread on /fa/ about "whether __ is suitable to wear under __ circumstances" makes me truly appreciate being in Japan.
Those are too fem, that's teetering into cosplay, all those qualifiers floating around are something I don't have to worry about anymore. The pathetic preoccupation with explicit masculinity is also ever-present in every online fashion forum, concentrating if it's populated by boomers. Debates over effeminacy, jinoistic little "made in america" croutons strewn over the sides alongside gas station dick pill ads, there's less meticulous judgement on a coroner's autopsy table. And there's no better thermometer than marketers shuffling under transnational corporations, the activities of collectives literally paid to find out how human beings act. Products for American markets often need to be "masculinized" in order to appeal to insecure burger sensibilities, manifesting into something as simple as a name change. And this trend cuts across hobbies, markets, and product lines. The utterly pornographic Nissan Fairlady series of the 70's turned into the Datsun Z. The Canon Kiss of 35mm fame was localized as the Canon Rebel. I'm surprised the marketers didn't just add flame decals to save some time. Or making Kirby scowl on every box cover? How utterly puerile.
But I'm guilty of all this judgement myself, I remember chuckling at men wearing capris back when I dressed like a Sears catalog model. Now I resemble a Star Wars extra on hot days. Who gives a shit. Traditional menswear will always be baffling to me though. Formality adheres to a set of rather rigid rules on color and fit: it's a uniform with little latitude for fear of looking non-traditional. No wonder every quirky 20-something pairs their grey suit with retina-cauterizing neon socks and handkerchiefs. Just seems like two converging ideas fighting for attention.
before (2017)/after (2019)
Fast-fashion lookbooks are probably the best example of the artificiality that has much of the fashion industry by the gooch: selling volume, presenting lifestyles, it's a meaningless, commercialized pursuit. The arrangement is to be expected as an essential commodity, one that bumps shoulders with food and water. And perhaps my sacralization of plant corpses that we hang off our bodies is an overreaction. But while mainstream attention on sustainability and ethical consumption have passed over food in the 2000's, it lies latent within the world of clothing. Every few months there's a horrendous stream of news coming from Asia strewn across your screen like terrible little croutons. Multinationals point fingers at other competitors' sweatshops and shrug. The system is terrible, but to an acceptable degree.
Workwear around 2010 championed ethical consumption: Know where your garment was sewn, where the fabric was milled, where the staples were grown. Here's Takehiro, he was a NEET for 3 years after college, loves fishing by Enoshima, cheats on his wife of 8 years on the weekends, and sews your jeans in Okayama. But while transparency produces enough bravery to drop triple digits on clothing, it doesn't tackle the underlying issue: An informed consumer buying garments shippied from Japan made by Egyptian textiles is not an ethical consumer.
Inmates at the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institute produce denim clothing to both supply its internal needs, and to sell online. The jeans and coats are distributed on a prehistoric website with the same dry, burecreatic, and almost sanitory language as a DMV form. The phrases "reducing taxpayer costs" and "paying for their own incarceration costs" belt-tightening attitude now sits uncomfortably alongside facts about venal judges shuttling people towards for-profit prisons. As it so happens, the 1682-bed prison is the city of Pendleton´s fourth largest employer. For-profit prison being the most depressing word salad since "sillicone woman" or "youtube celebrity."
The website doesn't mention inmates are paid around $4 to 5 dollars a day for their work, much less that this is a desirable job within the prison. It isn't hard to see why considering the alternatives. Penal labor is an enduring institution in the US, the 13th amendment upholding it explicitly. Your favorite companies have taken advantage of prisoners being paid decimaled wages, even through an ongoing pandemic.
Prison Blues presented a dilemma to many workwear adherents. Legitimacy is one of the draws of workwear, and here was a source of US-made denim garments at inordinately inexpensive prices. Some forum users, no doubt acclimated to spending many times that on their superficial hobby, decried what ideologically violated a genre that championed union labor. Others didn't care.
The alternatives are similarly bleak. Multinational companies like H&M and Uniqlo have no pride like small-scale Workwear manufacturers or budgetary motives like local governments. They'll fabricate the trends and choose their suppliers according to what's most cost-effective to them. As long as they turn a profit anything under the current system is justifiable, whether it's subcontracted sweatshops with little oversight, destroying unsold garments, or using fabric made by slaves.
On the other hand, military garments were purpose-built with an exact demographic and exact role. The designs are unapologetically pragmatic, unmolested by the aching phallus of global capitalism. Instead it's the consummation of bureaucracy and industry, their contribution to the destruction of other human beings. Within this, it's the specialized garments that really catch my attention. Mechanized troops, Paratroopers, Mountain troops, Arctic troops, they all have a different set of stipulations that neccessitate divergent design decisions. Mountain trooops with double-breasted parkas, ski-ready square-toed boots, pass-through pockets, and lots of wool, all emphasizing retention and insulation. This specialization of design through utility is fascinating to me, and it makes clothing a thousand times more compelling. Shame about where it comes from.
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